Therapy Dogs Deployed to Ease Sadness, Stress at Site of Surfside Condo Collapse
Nine golden retrievers from the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry arrived at the site of the Florida tragedy earlier in July, NPR reports
A little hug goes a long way.
According to NPR, nine therapy dogs arrived at the site of the Surfside condo collapse in Florida this week, offering comfort to emergency personnel and the grieving families of victims. The dogs — all golden retrievers — came through the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry, from five states as far as Illinois.
"We're very concerned about their mental health," Bonnie Fear, the organization's crisis response coordinator, told NPR of first responders. "Our prayer is that they make it through, they find what they need to mentally process and to know, in their minds, that they found someone's loved one, they made a difference for the families. And I hope they hang on to that."
On June 24, the Champlain Towers South Condo in Surfside, Florida, partially collapsed, and since, emergency workers have been scouring the ruins through dangerous conditions — including frightening weather due to last week's Tropical Storm Elsa — first looking for survivors, and for the past two weeks, remains. According to a July 15 report in the Miami Herald, the death toll is at 97, possibly the final number.
"The numbers line up but that doesn't necessarily mean we're done. We don't know. That's why we can't claim victory yet. On an incident like this it is very rare to get 100 percent," said Alvaro Zabaleta, a spokesperson for Miami-Dade Police. "Until we pick up every piece of rubble and clear it, we can't say we're done."
As rescue work has continued, the therapy dogs have spent time near a memorial site by the fallen tower, as well as at a Red Cross family assistance center, according to NPR. The dogs don blue vests that read "Please Pet Me," and, NPR reports, have been met by thankful individuals sporting both smiles and tears.
"They're just real sweet and pleasant when someone comes up to them," Fear told the outlet.
The Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry formed in 2008, and since, dogs from the organization have traveled to sites of tragedies like New York and New Jersey's Superstorm Sandy and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, according to lutheranchurchcharities.org. The organization doesn't charge those it helps, instead running on donations; you can contribute to the work here.